Blue on Red: Chemical conditions of liquid water emerging on simulated Martian regolith

1,2Piotr Rzymski,3Piotr Klimaszyk,4Nadiia Kasianchuk,2Paulina Jakubiak,5Jędrzej Proch,5Przemysław Niedzielski
Icarus (in Press) Link to Article [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2022.115263]
1Department of Environmental Medicine, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland
2Integrated Science Association (ISA), Universal Scientific Education and Research Network (USERN), Poznań, Poland
3Department of Water Protection, Adam Mickiewicz University, 61-642 Poznań, Poland
4Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University, 61-642 Poznań, Poland
5Department of Analytical Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
Copyright Elsevier

There is evidence of large subglacial reservoirs of liquid water on Mars, while the debate continues on whether any surface water intermittently flows following the subsurface ice melting in selected locations. The chemical conditions of waters that could be present on Mars were previously subject to modeling studies or experimental research that did not involve perchlorates which are known to be present in Martian regolith. Therefore, the present experimental research aimed to understand the chemistry of water incubated for 21 days with the Martian regolith simulant MGS-1 mixed with different levels of perchlorate (0.25–1.0% corresponding to 1.5–6.0 mM ClO4− ions). The dissolution of chemical compounds from MGS-1 was rapid with electric conductivity (EC) in the 1.8–2.3 mS/cm range after 1 h incubation. Throughout the experiment, fluctuations of pH, EC and oxidation-reduction potential were observed, although generally, the water was rich in ions, highly oxidized and had a circumneutral pH. Dominant elements included S, Mg, Ca, Na, K and Fe. Two patterns of element concentrations were observed: (1) a rapid increase with a peak 3 h after flooding the regolith and then a gradual decrease indicating adsorption and immobilization (Al, Cr, Fe, Si and Ti), and (2) a gradual increase in concentration throughout the experiment (Ca, K, Mg, Na and S). The presence of perchlorate in the simulant did not affect the general patterns of water chemistry parameters, although it appeared to enhance the leaching out of Mg, Na, S (with max concentrations noted in the presence of 1.0% perchlorate), Al, Ca (0.5%) and Cr, Fe, Si and Ti (0.25%). No detectable concentrations of Mn and P were leached from the regolith simulant throughout the experiment. This study provides a pilot experimental overview of the combined physicochemical conditions that modern liquid water on Mars could present with the potential implications for the survival of biological life and use as an in situ resource.

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